Monday, August 30, 2010


You know those bumps that develop in the asphalt at intersections? I think they're the reason a lot of heavily-trafficked intersections are made with cement instead so the road surface lasts longer.

This brand new asphalt on the turn that leads from Hwy 2 (southbound) onto Country Homes Boulevard is barely a month old and it's already developing corrugation.

Yeah, I know, my kids tell me I'm weird, too.


Not long after I learned how to ride a bike I saw another boy do something really neat. Now please bear with me while I digress a moment. "Neat" was the common word we used back then to express approval. It preceded "groovy", a word I never cared for, which in turn preceded "far out" which I thought was...far out. And while "cool" has endured for decades, it was not present in the neighborhood lexicon on the 3200 block of Bryant Street in Topeka, Kansas. While all of that is not necessarily important to this story, for those of you who think anyone who remembers the assassination of JFK is old, that is how long ago I'm talking about.

A bicycle expanded our horizons and allowed for greater freedoms back then. Society was not as fearful as it is today and essentially the only restriction was that us kids had to be home by dinner. There was a two-fold reason for us to be on time. If we missed dinner not only did we not get to eat but we got a spanking on top of it. An empty stomach and fresh belt welts made for a miserable night for a seven-year-old so it was in our best interests to be home at the appointed time. I apologize for swerving off on another tangent.

Back to the beginning. When I learned to ride, I mimicked what other riders did. It never occurred to me to be imaginative about it so when it came to stopping my bike, I applied the brakes until I came to a full stop, dismounted, and then put the kickstand down. Just like everyone else. That changed the day I saw a kid dismount while the bike was in motion and remain standing on the left-side pedal. While he slowed he pushed kickstand down and stepped off the bike the moment it came to a stop.


All of our bikes had coaster brakes which were activated by pushing a pedal backwards. For us, hand brakes were considered to be outside the norm and found on three-speed bikes that only old people rode. There was always an amount of play in the coaster brakes and that varied from bike to bike. One might engage the brake with just a slight backward rotation of a few degrees and another may require a quarter turn. Mine was more towards the quarter-turn category. The first time I tried the all-in-one-fluid-motion of dismount, brake and park, I did not engage enough of the brake. As the rest of the group came to a stop, I continued on with one foot on the pedal and the other ready to push the kickstand down. But I kept rolling and had to saddle up again to brake, creating a moment of hilarity for my friends and bruising my dignity just a little.

To make it work I had to get to know my bike better. Trial and error is a wonderful, but not always painless, teacher. The next time I engaged too much brake and stopped far too suddenly while in the middle of swinging my right leg over. Catching me by surprise, my body kept going forward while my rear tire skidded. I lost control and went down bruising more than my dignity. Looking for the sweet spot in the middle ground, I followed a different tack. I remained seated while stopping and experimented with the amount of play required to get the brake to engage just right. After that I was just as smooth and fluid as everyone else. A group of boys rolling up on their bikes, stopping and then walking or running away while the bikes remained upright It was neat.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Art Of Reframing

Cathy McMorris Rodgers started off her town hall meeting with some remarks about how she has lived the American Dream and her role as representative to ensure we continue to have that dream and that our children and grandchildren would have the same opportunities. She described how we--you and I--want to leave a better America for our children and grandchildren and that for too many of us that dream is in danger.

Transitioning to a description of today she said we were "in the midst of one of the worst economic crisises (sic), recessions that we've experienced in decades." We've had record unemployment for a record amount of time. The average household has lost 20% of its wealth. The federal deficit has tripled in size reaching an all time high and the federal debt has also reached an all time high. She continued painting a we're-in-dire-straits picture while the projector displayed the US National Debt Clock. We couldn't read the numbers, but their size in digits and the fact some of the big numbers were red helped convey the message.

So with the stage set she introduced everyone to America Speaking Out and it's importance in reaching out to Americans and getting their thoughts on how to move forward. She said this town hall was a good opportunity to give ideas to her. After her short hype of the site we watched a brief video about the purpose of the site. Her own comment in the video was that the site would "revolutionize the use of new media as we engage with our constituents." She also mentioned You Cut and encouraged everyone to visit that site as well, the emphasis being on getting public help in identifying ways to save money. Then we moved on to questions.

First up, Ron Wright presented a letter and a CD to be passed on to the Senate Judiciary Committee in opposition of Michael Ormsby's appointment as the United States Attorney. She took the letter and promised to pass it on.

The second person was a man who expressed disillusionment at both sides of the aisle, that for the last 15 years neither party had cut spending and asked why voters shouldn't go with a third alternative other than the two major parties. He also asked what parts of the budget would be reduced. McMorris Rodgers stated that Republicans and Democrats have both spent too much. She said that when she ran for office in 2004 she pointed out the need for a balanced budget amendment and she's all for pursuing that today. Moving on to which party we could trust to do that, she says she can only speak for her efforts. She's advocating that the first vote be for a balanced budget amendment. She encouraged all of us to make our voices heard "because representatives do respond to the people that they represent." So while she stressed that voters should demand a balanced budget amendment, she never explained which party they could trust.

The next questioner was upset that Social Security had been raided to much over the years and the money replaced with IOUs. He wanted to know what could be done to prevent that from happening in the future. Cathy said we have reached the point where Social Security is paying out more than it's taking in. According to the latest Old-Age and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund report, Social Security won't suffer from reduced income until 2025 and will probably be unable to pay scheduled benefits in full on a timely basis in 2037. McMorris Rodgers emphasized she will always stand to protect the Social Security benefits of our current retirees--almost everyone present--and near-retirees. She did not address Social Security for the those of us coming after the near-retirees.

One gentleman, a realtor, said there's an email going around saying the health care reform act includes a 3.8% tax on all real estate sales and he was concerned about the effect this would have on housing prices and sales. McMorris Rodgers seemed surprised to learn about that, as was I, but it turns out the "real estate tax" is bogus.

The health care reform act imposes a new 3.8 percent Medicare contribution tax on the investment income of higher-income individuals which would include capital gains resulting from the sale of a house. It is not a tax applied to every real estate transaction. You can read more about it here.

Next, when asked if the expiring Bush tax cuts will help with job creation, McMorris Rodgers was quick to reframe that.

"I'm not sure everyone in America realizes that we are facing a huge tax increase, almost four trillion dollars come January 1. 2011."

Mentioning "small business" throughout, she emphasized that business owners claim they're disturbed by the uncertainty. They don't now what their tax bill will be next year or five years from now. I didn't find that to be a convincing argument. It seems to me that if the tax cuts expire on January 1, 2011, you should be able to figure out your tax bill for the coming year.

The next questioner asked if McMorris Rodgers would support legislation that would bring all federally elected officials into the same retirement and health care as those in Social Security. With a finger raised in the air and her eyebrows popped up.

"I've never voted for a pay increase."

What she didn't say was that Congress gets an automatic pay raise every year and must submit and pass a bill to forgo that pay raise. Congress has turned down a pay raise during seven of the last twenty years. After explaining a little how retirement and health care work for Congress she then reframed the subject into overpaid federal employees. While she mentioned the lower pay and benefits of the private sector, she didn't address the why and how. I'll refer you to a post I did back in February on this subject.

The next question concerned overturning bureaucrat control of health care decisions. That set McMorris Rodgers off on all the talking points about freedom, government control of health care decisions, etc., but to her credit she didn't bring up the death panels. She expressed concern about the lack of cost drivers but that never seemed to be a Republican issue while private insurance skyrocketed over the years. She hopes the health care reform repeal will be one of the first votes in 2011.

"Just know that we did everything possible to keep it from passing."

Health care talking points were repeated for the next questioner. After that a man asked,

"Do you support the official federal policy of not pursuing law breakers from other counties? Illegal aliens."

"No," she answered firmly, reinforcing the fallacy that the federal government is going nothing about illegal immigration while the opposite is true.

While there was much more to cover, I think the most telling moment was near the end when a gentleman said he believed the Republicans have a plan and when they regained control of the House and Senate in November they would put that plan in place. He asked her to describe what the plan contained.

McMorris Rodgers rambled for a bit and said it was disappointing to meet with people and find they weren't aware of the Republican's plan for a given issue. She described it as a problem where they were not getting the word out to the public. And while she nattered about how they had a plan for the stimulus bill and health care, she never answered the question.

And nobody said or asked anything about America Speaking Out. I guess the revolution will not be televised.

Nonstop Pole Beans

We can't eat the pole beans fast enough so I had to start putting some away. Unlike the squash and zucchini which seem to have gone into suspended animation the pole beans are flourishing. The tomatoes are going like gang busters, too, but they aren't turning red fast enough. The few that have ripened have been absolutely delicious but I can't say I have much use for a ton of green tomatoes.

This is the second bag I'm putting in the freezer in three days. I'll be doing another bag soon.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Running For Office

I met Daryl Romeyn at the McMorris Rodgers town hall meeting and had the opportunity to chat with him when it ended. I introduced myself and told him I was a local blogger with tens of readers. (Impressive, right? I know!) Anyway, he was kind enough to answer a few questions and talk a bit. While we were talking we were interrupted by other people stopping by to say hello or bend his ear. He was gracious, polite and respectful with everyone he met. I particularly enjoyed the fellow who kept saying he had an open mind even though nearly everything else that came out of his mouth said otherwise. His closing remark of "If you were a tea partier then we could talk," nailed that coffin shut. But Mr Romeyn politely and energetically pressed that fact that he was an independent with no party backing and thus a candidate to take a chance on since the fellow was so concerned about entrenched politicians. (The Democratic Party is not allowed to help him since their designated candidate lost in the primary.)

While going over the difficulties he's facing in this election, I asked him why he got into this. His answer surprised me. He said he wants to clean up the national forests. He recognizes that issue doesn't resonate with a lot of voters, but I do see he mentions it on his campaign home page. In addition, he was terminated from his job in March and when it was announced that the Democrats weren't going to put up a candidate against McMorris Rodgers he thought he'd step up to the challenge. And then his farm suffered from the spring freeze. He thinks we--our country--can do better.

What struck me the most about him was the lack of passion in his reasons for running. No righting of wrongs. No fire in his eye. No spark of enthusiasm that lights up when he speaks. By his own admission, no cause that resonates with voters. I have to wonder that if he didn't lose his job or his farm wasn't as affected by the spring freeze, would he have entered the race? While we were discussing the New York mosque issue, he said that were he to say something like the Muslims had a constitutional right to build their mosque there then he would lose votes. While I agree with him, that reflects the sad reality of political life. It's all about getting elected.

Do we all have to drop our character off at the coat check when we pass through the doors of political life?

Where Is Everybody?

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers held a town hall meeting in the largest city in her district and barely 150 people showed up. No television cameras and I'm not sure there was any press at all. On the other hand, Daryl Romeyn, who is running against McMorris Rodgers sat down near me. More on him in another post. The few people that did attend were primarily older citizens. No young people at all except for the Boy Scouts who posted the colors at the beginning.

A ticket system was used to determine who would get to ask a question or two. You dropped your ticket in a barrel and kept the matching half.

If your number was drawn you stepped up to the microphone. If not, then you could still talk to the congresswoman or her staffers afterwards.

This young man, Justin Peterson of Chewelah, was presented with a flag for raising about $5,000 for the Honor Flight trip that allowed WWII veterans to travel to Washington, D.C. Cool beans!

I'm going to fact check what Cathy McMorris Rodgers had to say and I'll write more about that later. However, near the end of the meeting time a gentleman asked three questions, the last about what she thought about the mosque being built in New York City. I can only categorize her response as shameful.

"I believe it's a poor choice of location. As I view it, I think like many in America, it almost feels like a victory dance on the place where we were attacked on 9/11. And it's offensive to me."

A victory dance by whom? There's nothing like demonizing a great number of people to affect voter's emotions.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Increasing The Spokane City Postage Bill

Reported to and That's number seven for this truck.

Fracturing Unit Cohesion

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway is ready to take steps to deal with the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

On a different, but related subject, Conway suggested that if the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” law is repealed, the Marines may consider allowing Marines not to share quarters with homosexuals.

Conway said the Marines may make such housing arrangements "voluntary" to accommodate any "moral concerns." He said many Marines are "very religious" and because of their moral concerns "don’t want to room" with homosexuals.

Interesting, especially since one of the key characteristics of the military is training you to put individuality behind the team. I wonder if the general has thought through making this exception for the "very religious". The "very religious" are everywhere among us. Some have "moral concerns" for people who smoke, swear or drink. Some for people who don't have the same beliefs as them. And yet in an environment where you must be able to rely on every team member you have to set those differences aside, especially in the military. Creating a special exception is damaging to that.

What About Running To Catch The Bus?

A study entitled The Effect of Light Rail Transit on Body Mass Index and Physical Activity was published in the August 2010 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Apparently using light rail transit can help keep a few pounds off.

The implied average loss of 6.45 lbs induced by LRT use may be plausible if a person added walking 1 mile every workday to his or her daily routine. For a person weighing about 150 pounds, walking an extra 1 mile for 250 days/year would burn about 20,000 additional calories, or the equivalent of nearly 6 pounds. The average distance from home to the nearest station stop among LRT users was 1.5 miles, with bus stops located on average within 0.25 miles of their homes. The average estimated distance from a LRT station stop to a work address among LRT users was 0.35 miles. Using LRT could increase walking by approximately 1.2 miles a day, if one assumes that those using LRT to commute to work would walk to a bus stop to take to the local LRT station, and then walk from the destination stop to their work address.

The technical part:

Methods: Data were collected on individuals before (July 2006 –February 2007) and after (March 2008 –July 2008) completion of an LRT system in Charlotte NC. BMI, obesity, and physical activity levels were calculated for a comparison of these factors pre- and post-LRT construction.Apropensity score weighting approach adjusted for differences in baseline characteristics among LRT and non-LRT users. Data were analyzed in 2009.

Results: More-positive perceptions of one’s neighborhood at baseline were associated with a -0.36 (p<0.05) lower BMI; 15% lower odds (95% CI=0.77, 0.94) of obesity; 9% higher odds (95% CI=0.99, 1.20) of meeting weekly RPA through walking; and 11% higher odds (95% CI=1.01, 1.22) of meeting RPA levels of vigorous exercise. The use of LRT to commute to work was associated with an average -1.18 reduction in BMI (p<0.05) and an 81% reduced odds (95% CI=0.04, 0.92) of becoming obese over time.

Conclusions: The results of this study suggest that improving neighborhood environments and increasing the public’s use of LRT systems could provide improvements in health outcomes for millions of individuals.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Town Hall Meeting On Thursday

Cathy McMorris Rodgers is holding a town hall meeting at Sacajawea Middle School (map) on Thursday, Aug 26, from 4:30 pm to 5:30 pm.

From the email:

On Thursday, August 26, I will be hosting a public town hall in Spokane to hear your ideas for America's future. This town hall, which is sponsored by America Speaking Out – a new project led by House Republicans to engage the people and seek your ideas for a governing agenda - will focus on jobs, spending, health care, government reform, and national security.

If you plan to go she'd like you to RSVP.

Looking For Terrorists With Osteoporosis

Since we can't get intrusive enough and don't mind our civil liberties being erased, a scientist has come up with an idea to positively identify criminals and terrorists.

The idea was born when a Wright State University scientist went online as his young daughters were preparing to go trick-or-treating and discovered that convicted sex offenders were living in his neighborhood. What if there was a way to positively identify sex offenders as they arrived at theme parks and other venues populated by young children? Better yet, the scientist wondered, what if there was a way to recognize terrorists in disguise at airports or U.S. ports of entry?
As a result, the Wright State Research Institute is developing a ground-breaking system that would scan the skeletal structures of people at airports, sports stadiums, theme parks and other public places that could be vulnerable to terrorist attacks, child abductions or other crimes. The images would then quickly be matched with potential suspects using a database of previously scanned skeletons.

Let's think this through for a second. If you suspect someone is a terrorist then you can probably get their name and maybe a photo easy enough. You would have to know who they are to match their fingerprints to them. Getting a scan of their skeleton and matching that up to their name would be tricky, but I have an idea. How about a free osteoporosis check? Yeah, that's the ticket!

Now let's look at identifying sex offenders at theme parks and other venues populated by young children. Where is the evidence showing sex offenders running rampant in these venues? What would your reaction be when told the purpose of scanning your skeletal structure is to make sure you're not a sex offender? And what does this scanner do for the most likely threat?

Sometimes we just can't generate enough fear in our society.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

America Still Not Saying Much

Three months after the unveiling of America Speaking Out, America still hasn't had much to say. I checked out the top voted items in each category and there has been little change since I last looked six weeks ago.

Displacing making English our official language, we now have a new leader in the American Prosperity category. Now, under the Job Creation sub-category, we want to deport all illegal aliens because they're taking all our jobs. I had no idea so many Americans wanted to work in the fields or clean hotel rooms.

Under Fiscal Responsibility, in the sub-category of Spending it is reducing defense spending and using some of the money for schools, infrastructure and social programs--just as it was six weeks ago only now with 800 more votes.

No change in American Values where the top idea, showing an increase of 500 votes, is still in the sub-category of Constitutional Limits where each bill must specify where in the U.S. Constitution Congress gets the authority to do what they're doing.

No change in the National Security area where the top idea is in the Terrorism Abroad sub-category and still identifies not verifying the citizenship of voters at the polls as the source of our illegal immigration problems. It has 300 more votes than before.

In the final category where you can start your own debate, overtaking the decriminalization of marijuana we now have the idea that Republicans be the opposite of what they are. Like that's gonna happen.

After three months, the paucity of votes indicates another showboating success for the House Republicans. I'm only bringing this up because nobody is paying attention which, just like with earmark reform, is exactly what they want you to do.

Summer Parkways

Josh, Steph and I monitored intersections on Howard Street today during today's Summer Parkways event. What a great day for it. It looked like there was a very good turnout. I took the opportunity to fill my SD card. More photos are on my PhotoBucket account.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Downside To The Internet

This isn't easy to write. It's not fun to say. It's virtually unthinkable to realize and acknowledge.

While the controversy still rises and rages on, around the proposed "Cordoba House" mosque and Muslim cultural center right on the edge of Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center stood till Sept. 11, 2001 – there is a world-famous building, dedicated by its current residents to similar purposes, in the middle of Washington, D.C.

We call it the White House.

Used to be you'd hear craziness like this from an old man standing on a street corner who we would write off as crazy after after seeing and hearing how crazy he was. Now it's easy to publish your craziness online and avoid the eye contact that verifies you ain't all there.

I hereby declare Pat Boone nuckin' futs.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Then And Now

Kathy and I met 31 years ago. A friend of mine took this picture of us back then and I just got a copy of it last week. When I first saw it I thought, "Who are those people?"

And here we are today, hardly changed at all.

Yep, that's my trophy wife of 30 years and counting.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Preparing For Summer Parkways

This evening Bill Bender gave us the lowdown on our very easy duties for this Sunday's Summer Parkways. "Thank you" to Mike Starr of David's Pizza for coming out in the fire truck and cooking up some pies for us.

Carrying Excess Weight

As my panniers came out of the scanner the security guard asked, "What's the hook for?"

Not having a clue I answered, "What?"

"The hook in your bag. What's it for?"

"What hook?"

"C'mere and have a look."

I walked around to the monitor and sure enough, to my disbelief there was a hook. I returned to my panniers and pulled it out of a pocket. I found this some time ago while riding out in the Peone Prairie area. I had planned to do some clever road find post that for the life of me escapes me now. I've been uselessly lugging it around Spokane ever since.

"I always know it's your bag because it has that hook," the guard said. "I always wondered what you'd use it for since you're on a bike so I thought I'd ask."

Too bad he didn't ask me sooner.

Bigots And Cowards - Hypocrisy In Action

In spite of the religious freedom protections within the highly-venerated-by-many-when-convenient United States Constitution we now have no shortage of politicians chiming in that an Islamic cultural center/mosque should not be constructed two blocks away from what is referred to as "hallowed ground" in New York City.

Why? Some claim it would be disrespectful. That it would be an affront. That it would dishonor the people who died in the attack. But when asked how it would be disrespectful, an affront, or dishonorable, you get no answer. That's because the real reason is that radical Muslims flew the planes into the towers and bigots think all Muslims share the blame. It does not matter that Muslims were among the victims who were also members of other faiths--or not members of any faith. The fact that all but one of the 9/11 attackers was from Saudi Arabia is not an issue. Nobody calls for an embargo or cutting diplomatic ties or doing anything to Saudi Arabia. But since the attackers were all Muslims...well...that's a different story.

Here's an example of just how gutless and politically expedient many of our senators and representatives are. Earlier this month the Senate by unanimous consent passed Senate Resolution 322 entitled A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on religious minorities in Iraq. Back in February the House overwhelmingly passed House Resolution 944 entitled Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives on the protection of members of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority communities in Iraq. For both resolutions there was a total of only three "no" votes and those were in the House.

These resolutions are similar in nature so I'm primarily providing excerpts from the House version.

Whereas threats against members of even the smallest religious and ethnic minority communities in Iraq could jeopardize the future of Iraq as a diverse, pluralistic, and free society;

Whereas in recent years, there have been alarming numbers of religiously motivated killings, abductions, beatings, rapes, threats, intimidation, forced conversions, marriages, and displacement from homes and businesses, and attacks on religious leaders, pilgrims, and holy sites, in Iraq, with the smallest, non-Muslim religious minorities in Iraq having been among the most vulnerable, although Iraqis from many religious communities, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, have suffered in this violence;

Whereas approximately 1,400,000 Christians were estimated to have lived in Iraq as of 2003, including Chaldean Catholics, Assyrian Orthodox, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Catholics, Syriac Orthodox, Armenians (Catholic and Orthodox), Protestants, Evangelicals, and others;

Whereas it is widely reported that only 500,000 to 700,000 indigenous Christians remained in Iraq as of 2009;

Whereas the Yazidi community in Iraq reportedly now numbers about 500,000, a decrease from about 700,000 in 2005;

Whereas the Baha’i faith, estimated to have only 2,000 adherents in Iraq, remains prohibited in Iraq under a 1970 law;

Whereas the ancient and once-large Jewish community in Iraq now numbers fewer than 10, and they essentially live in hiding;

Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that--

(1) the United States remains deeply concerned about the plight of members of the vulnerable religious and ethnic minority communities of Iraq;

The bolding in the excerpts is mine for the purpose of asking if any of that sounds familiar.

There is one part of the Senate version I want to highlight.

Whereas during the 35-year rule of the Baath Party and Saddam Hussein, and despite the Provisional Constitution of 1968 that provided for individual religious freedom in Iraq, the Government of Iraq severely limited freedom of religion, especially for religious minorities, and sought to exploit religious differences for political purposes

Imagine that. Exploiting religious differences for political purposes. Oh, kettle, you are sooooo frickin' black.

So when it comes to religious minorities in Iraq our political leaders are alarmed, deeply concerned and expressing their "sense". But for one religious minority here at home which would like to enjoy--and is entitled to--the protections our country offers, many of our senators and representatives cowardly turn their backs because they are more concerned with their political future than they are with the future of America as a diverse, pluralistic, and free society.

Since We're So Concerned With Disparity...

In yesterday's Spokesman Review, the editorial board published an opinion piece that rehashed the USA Today column from last week and says the federal government needs to do something, i.e., reduce, pay for its workers. Why? Because it's only fair.

The reason for the widening gap in pensions and health care coverage is that the private sector has aggressively cut those benefits. Many private companies have eliminated or reduced traditional defined benefit plans for retirees. Government continues to take on future pensioners. On the whole, private companies have asked their workers to pick up more of their health care costs.

As a result, we have private workers whose pay has stagnated and whose benefits have been slashed supporting public employees who aren’t feeling commensurate pain. The government cannot mandate raises for the private sector, but it can look at the widening disparity and the overall federal budget mess and do more of its own cutting.

Public employees are not feeling commensurate pain. Apparently we should even things out. Well if the Review editors are going to go all communist and everything shouldn't they also recommend that we even out CEO pay as well? After all, if companies can't afford to compensate their workers as before and yet are able to overcompensate their CEOs with millions even when they get fired then it's quite likely they're not feeling commensurate pain either.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Parking In The Bike Lane

Duly reported to and recorded at MyBikeLane. That's right, sport. You're gonna get a letter!

Hopefully I'm Doing Something Cool

I realize this is an ad, but still, what purpose can it possibly serve?

Marker Prevention

Another cyclist was struck and killed in Spokane. He reportedly failed to stop at a stop sign. Sadly, I see this type of behavior all the time. On the way to work yesterday morning a woman about 100 feet in front of me clearly had time to stop when the light turned yellow and yet she began pedaling faster. In spite of her acceleration she still entered the intersection after the light turned red. As she entered the intersection she quickly looked left and right as if that would make any difference to a car approaching at speed.

I've seen the topic of saying something to cyclists violating traffic laws addressed before. Instead of replaying the arguments for and against I thought I'd offer a different approach.

Introduce yourself and ask them their name. Then say something along the lines of, "I just wanted to know who you are so I'll make a connection if I ever read about you in the paper."

Hopefully that prompts a question about how they would get in the paper.

"Well, if you keep (insert traffic violation here) I figure it's just a matter of time before you get hit. And when that happens I can tell people that I met you once. And what a shame because you seemed like a nice person."

We've All Been There

Just once while installing software I'd like the following message to be displayed after I click the box that says I have read and understood the end user license agreement.


Summer Parkways Needs You

A new initiative intended to encourage the use of non-motorized transportation and enhance community is Summer Parkways. This is run entirely by volunteers and you can be one of them. The next Summer Parkways day is this coming Sunday, Aug 22.

Now you might think that sitting at an intersection for a couple of hours would be a completely boring waste of your time. You're right--if you choose that. But nothing says you just have to sit there like a bump on a log.

You'll notice I said this is also about community. Bring something that will allow the people walking and rolling by to interact with you. Bring sidewalk chalk or a game. Do a beanbag toss or make a couple of hopscotch games on the pavement. You are limited by your imagination. Make it fun.

Tomorrow evening is the volunteer training session at Riverfront Park. If you want to volunteer--and you do because you like to have fun, right?--then go to the Summer Parkways site. I'll see you at the training.


Elly Blue and Joe Biel of Portland, Oregon, presented their Bikestravaganza program last night at the Community Building. The room was packed enough that several people had to sit on the floor so we had a good turnout. Elly and Joe gave a history of how various forms of advocacy have worked over the years to make Portland one of the leading cycling cities in the country. It ranged from the police coming down heavy to snuff out Critical Mass to rides organized to identify and call in unsafe traffic engineering. And yet the complete picture of Portland shows there is still a lot of disparity with the city. Even today the challenges of bureaucratic obstacles and pro-vehicle administrators contrast with creative bikeway experiments within the city. Elly and Joe are passionate and articulate about creating liveable communities and their presentation reflects that.

At each city they go to, they also include local cycling advocates and enthusiasts. As a result, a number of the Spokane cyclerati stepped up in front to give a brief overview of their efforts and activities. Bill Bender, Barb Chamberlain and Jeff Everett to name a couple. What struck me was that for as many that got up and spoke there were just as many missing. I don't say that to mean some were excluded. I think it highlighted the fact there are so many facets in Spokane's cycling scene. There is something for everybody here. And you could tell that by looking at those in attendance last night whose ages ranged from young to old and whose cycling skill sets varied just as much.

Let's keep it rolling, Spokane.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Platitudes For Success

During my absence, The Inlander published yet another nonsensical column by former congressman George Nethercutt, A Plan For Success. Surprisingly, he begins with an insult to us all.

Voting is an emotional act. We vote our fears and hopes, but mostly we vote our impressions.

In other words we are cattle to be stampeded by gunfire, lightning, wolves, loud noises, dogs, screams, etc. We are emotional voters do not think, study issues or use rational thought. We are more concerned with scary things and can be frightened into running for the cliff. That appears to be true if you go by what is reflected and enhanced by the media, most of which serves only itself. And while I've met many people who are knowledgeable of issues and candidates, I've also met my share of emotional, uninformed, or strictly ideological people who won't or can't discuss anything other than the cliff they are running for thinking safety is just ahead. Mr Nethercutt's column appeals to that group.

Right now, the public’s faith in our national leaders is shaken. Democrats are perceived as big spenders (which they are), piling up trillions in new deficits atop a mounting national debt. Republicans are perceived as “no” voters who don’t have their own plan (and they don’t — yet). Voters think Republicans are unimaginative (and they are), using “tax cuts” and “smaller government” as their primary answer — their mantra — to national problems.

Mr Nethercutt has a short memory of his time in Congress when we passed tax cuts for the rich and invaded a country that posed no threat to us. Both were huge. Republicans don't have a plan yet? Good grief, how much time do they need? And they're unimaginative? Hello! Has he read his column? He wants to substitute "tax cuts" and "smaller government" with a new mantra.

Here are three basic concepts for Republicans to run on in 2010 and 2012: Freedom, Security and Competency.

This is known as bumper sticker politics. You can put "Freedom - Security - Competency" between "An Obamanation Is An Abomination" and "Where's The Birth Certificate?". You do have room, right?

Under Freedom he reframes three issues: national health care, financial reform, and government spending. They have nothing to do with freedom, unless you're talking about corporations having the freedom to do as they please.

Obama and the Democrats jammed this legislation through just because they could (they had the votes), but post-passage analysis shows that the law will cost more than estimated and reduce individual freedom to control one’s health care destiny. That’s why 53 percent of the public in a recent Rasmussen poll favor repeal.

Have we forgotten how long it took? The legislation wasn't jammed through. Republicans offered hundreds of amendments, even one to define marriage in the District of Columbia which was not one of the roughly 400 that were adopted. Along with the foot dragging and caterwauling the Republicans were still part of the process, but that's not going to stop Nethercutt from seeding thin clouds and banging a bass drum to make thunder. It's a scary storm!

The financial meltdown of two years ago was the product of incremental removal of controls over financial institutions by both parties. The impact on small investors is nothing compared to what happened to them (us!) two years ago. But Nethercutt's concern that the recent reform legislation will adversely affect small investors is just him shooting blanks in the air. And loud noises are scary!

The well worn, often played card of government spending is Nethercutt sneaking up in front of you and clapping his hands to startle you. It's a well established fact that the wars and Bush's tax cuts have cost us far more than anything else.

That was Freedom. On to Security.

A July Gallup poll showed 79 percent of Americans believe that terrorism is a serious or extremely serious national problem.


And a non-scientific Homeland Security Group poll showed that 86.6 percent of Americans believe America is not safer with the Obama administration in charge.


National security officials recently spoke publicly in a Senate hearing about their concerns for homeland security. All stated they expect serious attempts to attack the U.S. in the months ahead.

Well, we have to justify our permanent threat level of Yellow (Elevated) and a permanent special level just for the airlines Orange (High). Honestly, when can they ever go down? And don't discount those non-scientific polls. Just because it's an indiscriminate collection of people's opinions doesn't mean it's not valuable. Look how it's used here.

The last word on the bumper sticker is Competency.

By a wide margin of 68 percent to 32 percent, Americans believe that the “political class” doesn’t care what most Americans think.


Too many Americans simply don’t like our country’s misguided domestic path and are increasingly concerned about world tensions.

Can you feel the tug on your emotion chain?

I can boil down Mr Nethercutt's message to this. BE AFRAID! Run for the cliffs by voting for the Republicans shooting into the air and just barely holding the dogs at bay as they nip at your backside.

Repeat after me: Freedom - Security - Competency, Freedom - Security - Competency, Freedom - Security - Competency. Doesn't that make you feel better?

You don't even have to think.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

You Might Want To Watch Those Red Flags

Today's Spokesman Review has a short "news" piece about the Get Motivated seminar coming up on Tuesday at the Spokane Veteran's Memorial Arena, a topic I posted about last month.

I say "news" piece because it's about what other news pieces have stated.

Those earlier news articles also say the event includes two or three lesser-known presenters who work the crowd with offers to sell training materials or get-rich study guides, DVDs or books.

While Giuliani and Powell have been active in the Republican party, the Get Motivated sessions don’t espouse political positions, according to news stories from previous events.

However, brochures promoting the Spokane event do have, in small type, the following statement: “One of the most popular parts of the Get Motivated seminar is a special 10–minute optional bonus session on the Biblical secrets of success.”

The Review article hardly pumps up the seminar. Neither does it follow any other leads about the seminar and its "lesser-known presenters who work the crowd with offers to sell training materials or get-rich study guides, DVDs or books."

The only motivation I feel is to avoid the Get Motivated seminar.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Google just started a spam blocker for comments and it's been great. How do I know? Because two days before the spam blocker started I accidentally clicked "Publish" instead of "Reject" on a spam comment. I must now be tagged as an easy target because since then I've been swarmed with spam comments. Most of them have been flagged as such and, if nothing else, the blocker makes deleting them easier.

The Islamic Center In New York City

President Obama finally spoke up on this issue.

The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.

How refreshing that he should stand up for the U.S. Constitution so strongly.

As to those who continue bleating about this because Muslims attacked us and trying to make it sound like all Muslims want to destroy us, those attackers are no more representative of all Muslims than the Reverend Fred Phelps is of all Christians.

Friday, August 13, 2010

We Were All Young Once

Last month I had one of those moments where I wondered what happened to a guy who was stationed with me at Scott AFB, Illinois, 31 years ago. So I used my Internet search engine skills and found that he now lives near Washington, D.C. Since I was headed there I contacted him. He was happy to hear from me and we got together for one evening where we recalled all the really, really crazy stuff we did back then. As we relived those moments I mentioned we were fortunate we didn't have cell phone cameras and Web 2.0 back then.

"We would've gone to jail," he said. He also described our antics as stuff you can't make up but sounds like it was. I'll provide some examples.

One young man typed a fake letter to Penthouse Forum describing a wild sex party held in a four star general's office. He typed that letter on a typewriter in that general's office not knowing that the single-use plastic ribbon was reviewed to ensure no classified information was on it.

Two guys--best friends actually--got in a fight and one suffered a nasty punch to the jaw. As was often the case the situation was alcohol fueled. In an attempt to even things up the other guy offered to take a free punch to the face. He ended up with a split eyebrow (still has the scar to this day) and now they had to go to the hospital. Since it was an alcohol related incident the commander ordered blood drawn from both to determine their blood alcohol content. The medical technician drawing the blood poured theirs out and used his instead. To their dismay "their" blood came back with alcohol in it but it "wasn't that bad".

When the fire department came to give us fire extinguisher training in which we would put out real fires we showed up with hot dogs and coat hangers.

Our First Sergeant's room was decorated with toilet paper and cologne. The powers-that-be never found out who did it. In spite of the persistent and heavy questioning nobody broke.

The "Reserved Parking" signs for our commander and First Sergeant moved from our parking lot to about twenty feet inside the lake on base. Our flight chief said he knew we did it, "we" meaning someone from his flight, but he never wanted to know who did it. And he wanted them put back immediately.

One flight chief loved to visit the ladies during the quiet midnight shifts. The patrols--I should mention we were Law Enforcement Specialists--made a game of scouring the base to find him, maintaining radio silence the entire time. Once he was found in the carport of his own house where his wife slept, blissfully unaware.

After a long night of drinking four guys drove to Missouri to beat up the former boyfriend of one of the guy's girlfriend for some reason or another. Having no clue where to go they drove around aimlessly, finally coming through some trees in a rural area and finding a burning cross, a huge semi-circle of cars with headlights shining inward and a lot of people wearing white robes. A quick one-eighty and they got the heck out of there, drove aimlessly some more until they were almost out of gas. They parked at the pump of a closed gas station and slept until it opened.

Various types of fireworks set up with long fuses and aimed at gate guards and hopefully no traffic pulling up to the gate when they went off.

So in spite of the many opportunities we took advantage of to sink ourselves, we somehow muddled through, matured, and over time became mostly responsible adults. And if you're surprised, you should see the people who knew us back then.

Came Home To Fresh Green Beans

I planted pole beans this year and quite a few came in during my absence.

Oh, and I came home to a loving wife and family, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hot Time In The City

So I've been at National Harbor, Maryland, since Sunday and the high humidity and high temperatures (yes, it's a frickin' weather report from D.C.) have tested my running.

View Larger Map

I've been running on a trail that goes along the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge to the other side of the Potomac River which makes me an interstate runner since I pass through Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. Yesterday I was sweating so bad my t-shirt and running shorts were literally dripping wet. (Thank me for not including a photo.) That makes it awkward to go back into the resort-like monstrosity of a hotel we're at but it's mostly okay as long as I'm not sharing the elevator with anyone. Today I took my shirt off (after leaving National Harbor because last year the security guards told me that shirtlessning was not allowed) and blinded other trail runners/walkers/cyclists with my bright white abs of mirth.

During today's run I spotted what looked like a vulture sitting on a streetlight squinting down at me, probably rightly figurin' I'm from outta town and would likely die from the heat. I stopped a park police officer and asked if that was indeed a vulture. She said, "We gotta lotta birds here. I don't know them." Thank you, officer. After reviewing some search engine results I'm certain it was a turkey vulture. BTW, the Bashful Buzzard was one of my favorite cartoon characters.

So there's not much of a point to this here post. I'm just running back and forth across the bridge which, by the way, has a great section of smooth white cement just right for barefoot running even when it's 95 degrees out. Oh, yeah. Did I mention how stinkin' hot and humid it is here?

Follow the Money

I find it interesting that when we compare federal workers pay with that of the private sector, we automatically assume the federal workers are overpaid because their overall pay and benefits package has kept up with or stayed ahead of inflation. You rarely hear the idea that maybe private sector pay and benefits have been slowly gutted over the years.

On the other hand, when you compare what senior government officials make with what senior business leaders make, the president's $400,000 and the cabinet-level official's $183,000 pale in comparison to the millions raked in by CEOs--even the ones who get fired.

So where exactly is the disparity?

If I Do It I Get A Whippin'

The Spokane International Airport has its first body scanner. Nevermind how expensive and useless they are. Think of the fun you could have with some aluminum foil, a stencil, and a t-shirt. The possibilities are endless.

I am under the restriction that I cannot have any of this type of fun while traveling with family because I may cause everyone to be detained or miss their flight. I can live with that. Security theater is serious business and there's nothing like detaining someone for a period of time to get that message across.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Seeing The World Anew

My young cousin Ethan is three years into this world. He is busy discovering a universe of which he is undoubtedly the center of.

It's funny how a child can make you look at something you've always felt you've known so well and show you something different about it. Questions beginning with "What" and "Why" catch you in midbreath and force you to think hard about how to explain something so a young mind can understand.

And then there's the fun of rediscovering the joy of the simple things.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What Exactly Is A Real American?

While browsing the 2010 Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI) Trustees Report--the annual report on the financial status of what we know as Social Security--I happened across this bit of information.

Legal immigration averaged about 780,000 persons per year during the period 1992 through 1999. Legal immigration increased to about 900,000 in 2000 and about 1,000,000 in 2001 reflecting primarily an increase in the number of persons granted [legal permanent resident] LPR status as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, the only category of legal immigration that is not numerically limited. However, legal immigration declined to less than 800,000 by 2003 as the number of pending applications increased. From 2003 to 2006, legal immigration increased, reaching about 1,200,000 for 2005 and 2006. For 2007 and 2008, legal immigration decreased to about 1,100,000. Legal immigration in excess of 1,000,000 reflects the concerted effort in recent years to reduce the backlog of pending applications for LPR status.

For the intermediate alternative, the remaining backlog of pending applications is assumed to be eliminated by the end of 2010, and thereafter legal immigration is assumed to be 1,000,000 persons per year.

So for those people who are so concerned about their "American" culture and their English language, over 13 million legal immigrants have moved to our country since 1992. And the board of trustees is planning for an additional million every year.

It's like these immigrants know the path our ancestors took--Native Americans excluded, of course.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Flying Irish Photo

Dang! Forgot to suck in my gut and flex.

Decisions, Decisions

Hmmm, block the sidewalk or the bike lane.

Or both!

Things To Ponder Today

How To Run: One of the lengthiest descriptions of proper running bio-mechanics I've ever seen, but well worth the read.

Hate-Making An Exception To The Rule: It's not really a mosque and it's not really at Ground Zero, but don't let that stop us from being hypocritical when it comes to our constitutionally protected religious freedom. At least Mayor Bloomberg and the Landmark Preservation Committee are reasonable and rational.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Playing By The Rules

George Packer has an excellent article in the New Yorker about how dysfunctional the Senate is where the rules that have evolved can easily be used to either make sure nothing gets done or create delays and waste time.

The Senate is often referred to as “the world’s greatest deliberative body.” Jeff Merkley, a freshman Democrat from Oregon, said, “That is a phrase that I wince each time I hear it, because the amount of real deliberation, in terms of exchange of ideas, is so limited.” Merkley could remember witnessing only one moment of floor debate between a Republican and a Democrat. “The memory I took with me was: ‘Wow, that’s unusual—there’s a conversation occurring in which they’re making point and counterpoint and challenging each other.’ And yet nobody else was in the chamber.”

If you've ever wondered why it can take a very long time for a legislative body to get something done, check out the article.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Haiku For The Middle Aged

My mind endures while
My flesh is overtaken.
Overwhelmed by time.

Bike Whispers

I was cleaning up in the garage when I heard what sounded like someone clearing their throat.


I looked around but nobody was there. Thinking my mind was playing tricks on me I returned to pushing my broom.


Startled, I stepped out front and looked around. None of the neighbors were out. I was alone on the driveway. I stepped back inside and grabbed the broom again, listening closely and ready to pounce as soon as I heard anything.


I whipped my head around to--nobody. It came from near the front of the garage. I walked to where the sunlight shone in the entrance.

Looka here.

I looked down. Oh crap!

I think my bike is trying to tell me something.